Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis has remarkably stated that he will not sign African players for the club unless they agree to not play in the African Cup of Nations.
The 73-year-old says he ‘loves’ Napoli’s African players, but he rues having to pay them so much for the amount of time they are away.
‘I told them lads, don’t talk to me about Africans anymore!’ said De Laurentiis during a streamed event.
‘I love them, but either they sign something confirming they’ll back out of playing the Africa Cup of Nations, or otherwise between that tournament, the World Cup qualifiers in South America, these players are never available!
‘We are the idiots who pay salaries only to send them all over the world playing for others’.
Last season Napoli lost Kalidou Koulibaly to the AFCON and the centre-back went all the way with Senegal and won the tournament. The 31-year-old has now signed for Chelsea.
Former Fulham man Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa represented Cameroon at the tournament while he was on loan at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Ironically, Napoli made his loan a permanent signing back in May, clearly before De Laurentiis formed his stance.
The Serie A side’s star striker is Victor Osimhen, but he did not play for Nigeria at the AFCON earlier this year.
Napoli announced a bout of COVID would keep the prolific forward from representing the Super Eagles, but his withdrawal from selection and the timing of it raised a few eyebrows in Nigeria.
Osimhen scored 18 times in 32 games last season. He played twice more than Zambo Anguissa, but twice less than Koulibaly.
The top appearance maker for Napoli, who finished third in Serie A last season, was midfielder Elif Elmas with 46.
The AFCON only takes place every two years and runs for around a month in January. The 2021 tournament was played this year because COVID prevented it from happening the year prior, so there will be back-to-back tournaments with the 2023 edition coming next January.
De Laurentiis, who has a family history in cinema, is notorious for dramatic and jaw-dropping outbursts.
He famously made Gokhan Inler wear a rubber lion’s mask for his unveiling with the club, once fined a player for posing in underwear for a gay magazine and incredibly tried to put his players off moving to the Premier League by claiming that ‘English women don’t wash their genitalia’.
After not giving an interview for five months, De Laurentiis made headlines once again earlier this summer by calling the 2022 World Cup ‘super bulls*** of the century’.
He also said he never wanted to sack Gennaro Gattuso after just 18 months in charge blaming the move on failed contract talks.
‘I never wanted to sack him. At some point I had to worry about what would happen if the situation worsened. I called [Luciano] Spalletti who gave me his availability.
‘I told the team to work, because the manager had the confidence of the club. I talked to [Jorge] Mendes about renewing his deal but we couldn’t agree.’